Tag Archives: history of London

Blitz Remembered London

“Save St Pauls” – On Tuesday 29 December 2015, the Fire Service Preservation Group (FSPG) held an event; Blitz Remembered London, to mark the 75th Anniversary of the biggest “Blitz” raid of WW2.

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St Paul’s Cathedral rises above the smoke and flames of the Battle of Britain

A number of World War II fire appliances were on show to the public outside St Paul’s Cathedral, that iconic building for which Winston Churchill gave the directive to the London Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fire Service: “Save St Paul’s”.

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WW2 Fire Engines at St Paul’s Cathedral
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WW2 Fire Engines at St Paul’s Cathedral
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WW2 Fire Engines at St Paul’s Cathedral

Earlier in the day you could watch the amazing London Massey Shaw demonstrate her prowess pumping water on the Thames near Cannon Street bridge…unfortunately I couldn’t get there on time for that, although I did see her during the 800th Lord Mayor’s Show in November 2015.

Lord Mayors Show - flotilla
Lord Mayors Show – flotilla – the London Massey Shaw can be seen on the right

I managed to get into London in time to see the fantastic fire engines on show at St Paul’s as well as visit Dowgate Fire Station to hear the siren and watch the re-enactors muster to their machines before whizzing off around the City of London.

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The crews muster at Dowgate Station – Blitz Remembered
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The crews muster at Dowgate Station – Blitz Remembered
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The crews muster at Dowgate Station – Blitz Remembered
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The crews muster at Dowgate Station – Blitz Remembered

At 7pm after the last bong from the bells of St Paul’s had sounded, there was a short service of remembrance commemorating those brave men and women who ‘Saved St Paul’s’ on the night of 29.12.1940…75 years ago!

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The service at the Fireman’s Memorial
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The service at the Fireman’s Memorial
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Wreaths at the Fireman’s Memorial

It was quite wonderful to hear the bells of the WW2 Fire Engines being rung as the machines made their way from Dowgate Station around the City of London.

A wonderful commemorative event, and deeply poignant –

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Firemen’s Memorial at St Paul’s Cathedral

but for the bravery of the men and women of the London Fire Brigade and Auxilary Fire Service on that fateful night in 1940, we would likely have lost our most iconic building; St Paul’s Cathedral.

st pauls cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral hosts a number of special events related to the Queen and London

A visit to St Paul’s Cathedral is a must on any visit to London.

‘While You Are There…53 Places to go in London’ – Buy your copy here

(for more info about the event )

The Royal Watermen’s Tudor Pull – 11 May 2014

The Tudor Pull is an annual rowing event by the Royal Watermen between two great HRP Palaces, Hampton Court and H.M Tower of London.

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Hampton Court Palace

The Queen’s Row Barge ‘Gloriana’ rowed by the Royal Watermen is escorted by Thames Waterman’s Cutters, rigged with ceremonial canopies and flags, from Hampton Court to the Tower of London in order to deliver a ‘Stela’ to the Governor of the Tower.

The ‘Stela’ is a piece of ancient water pipe made from a hollowed tree trunk which stands on a base of timber from the old Richmond Lock and bears the coat of arms of the Watermen & Lightermen’s Company. The cutters are rowed by members of the Livery Companies of the City of London and, in keeping with tradition, each must carry a passenger.

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The Trinity Tide gets ready to join the flotilla – Tudor Pull

The event is organised by the Thames Traditional Rowing Association who support and promote the sport of fixed seat rowing and sculling on the River Thames in Waterman’s cutters.

Each year Her Majesty’s Royal Watermen complete a marathon row from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower of London, a distance of some 25 miles.

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The Gloriana pulls out into the middle of the River Thames at the start of the Tudor Pull

They do this to support the apprentices system of the trade of Thames Watermen and Lightermen and to   draw attention to London’s great underused asset ~ The River Thames. They also commemorate events of 1256 when Queen Eleanor’s royal barge sank under the old London Bridge with the loss of one of her courtiers, the Lady of the Bedchamber.

The Queen has a retinue of 22 appointed Watermen with her Royal Bargemaster to oversee and organise their duties~ these consist of accompanying Her Majesty when travelling on the river, at State visits and at the State Opening of Parliament.

Men are chosen for this honour for the dedication to their trade and for their prowess as oarsmen. Several of the men in the Queen’s retinue have competed in the Olympics and many in major events within the sport of rowing.

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The Trinity Tide – watermen’s cutter alongside the Gloriana passing Battersea Park

After the ceremony of accepting the ‘Stela’ at Hampton Court Palace HM Bargemaster carries the emblem, made from a slice of Medieval elm water-pipe, placing it aboard the Queen’s Row Barge ‘Gloriana’.

During the Tudor Pull the barge is accompanied by traditional oar powered Watermen’s Cutters belonging to the Livery Companies of the City of London dressed in their full company regalia, the Royal Shallop ‘The Jubilant’, the Watermen’s Shallop ‘LadyMayoress’ and by other craft from organisation and rowing clubs who preserve the sport of fixed seat rowing on the River Thames ~ this wonderful Royal high-way of the City of London.

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The Gloriana and flotilla including Liverymen’s cutters reach the City of Westminster

Following a short stop at Richmond the crews row down to the pool of London arriving at HM The Tower of London where the pageant disembark and the ‘Stela’, escorted by Yeoman Warder of the Tower, is processed to be presented to the Governor of H.M. Towerof London.

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The Gloriana arrives at the Tower of London

At a short ceremony he accepts the ‘Stela’ under his protection until it is returned to Hampton Court Palace for the following years procession.

The Tudor Pull is organised under the governance of the ‘Thames Traditional Rowing Association’.

More information at: http://www.traditionalrowing.com and http://www.jubilant.org.uk

and http://www.watermenshall.org/

and http://www.thamesalive.org.uk

For more information about annual and other events in London:

Plan your journey: http://www.tfl.gov.uk

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I have been very lucky to participate as an observer in the Tudor Pull.  The delightful craft I had the good fortune to travel on was the little ship ‘Verity’.

Many thanks to Malcolm K of Thames Alive and Peter who owns the ‘Verity’.


Ravens at the Tower of London

ravens at the Tower of London
ravens at the Tower of London

Ravens at the Tower of London.

According to legend Charles II believed that if the ravens were ever to leave the Tower, the fortress and the kingdom would fail. Now personally I can’t imagine that having some birds leave home is going to make such a difference to the continuation of an empire, but to be on the safe side and just in case, our Ravenmaster keeps a close eye on these winged characters and I have heard that they keep their wings clipped too!

For many years the ravens have become one of the Tower’s most famous sights and on most visits you will see these feathered creatures hopping about in the lawns or in their cages. They are quite beautiful really, albeit a bit menacing with their sharp beaks and pitch-black wings, and kind of suit the severity of the location.





ravens at the Tower of London


This historic landmark contains the Bloody Tower, Traitor’s Gate and the Crown Jewels and was at various times in it’s history a place of execution, and a place of long-term imprisonment. The 1,000 year-old fortress of England has been home to kings, statesmen and ghosts and if legend is to be believed, the final resting place of two little princes.


I love visiting the Tower of London and go as often as possible (despite the gruesome history; or perhaps because of the gruesome history 😉 )
Entrance fee includes permanent exhibitions; Prisoners of the Tower and Fit for a King, showcasing five centuries of royal armour.

Tower Hill, EC3  www.hrp.org.uk

Nearest tube Tower Hill on the Circle or District lines or by boat to Tower Pier, located next to the Tower of London.

Richmond Palace #LondonPalaces

RICHMOND PALACE – a Thameside royal residence, upstream of the Palace of Westminster, on the south, or Surrey bank of the river.

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Richmond Palace by Wyngaerde circa 1562 - how magnificent it must have been

By far and away my favourite palace, there is very little that remains of the original Richmond Palace and it is this that makes it so interesting.  It is also the palace nearest to where I live and is enroute to the station so I get to walk through the grounds fairly often….which is probably why it is my favourite!  I love that they had a Trumpeter’s House, as well as part of the remaining buildings are Number 1 The Wardrobe…I mean hello!!! wouldn’t you like a wardrobe this size? I guess Carrie from Sex and The City would be right at home here :)

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The Wardrobe - Richmond Palace

Richmond Palace was erected circa 1501 by Henry VII of England, formerly known by his title Earl of Richmond, within the royal manor of Sheen, it was occupied by royalty until 1649, replacing a former palace, itself built on the site of a manor house that had been appropriated by the Crown some two centuries beforehand.  In 1500, immediately preceding the construction of the new “Richmond” Palace the following year, the town of Sheen which had grown up around the royal manor, changed its name to “Richmond”, by command of Henry VII.

In 1554 the future Elizabeth I was held prisoner at Richmond by Mary I.   Once Elizabeth became queen she spent much of her time at Richmond, as she enjoyed hunting stags in the “Newe Parke of Richmonde” (now the Old Deer Park).   She died at Richmond Palace on 24 March 1603.

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Old Deer Park - Richmond

Like Elizabeth, James enjoyed hunting stags, and in 1637 James I created a new area for this now known as Richmond Park, renaming Elizabeth’s “Newe Parke” the “Old Deer Park”.   There continue to be red deer in Richmond Park today, possibly descendants of the original herd, free from hunting and relatively tame….except when they get chased by a dog names ‘jesus christ fenton’!! LOL

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map of Richmond Park

Today only vestigial traces of Richmond Palace remain – most notably the gatehouse.

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Richmond Palace - Old Gate House

The site occupies the area between Richmond Green and the River Thames, and some of the street names provide evidence of the former existence of the Palace, namely Old Palace Lane, Old Palace Yard and The Wardrobe and the Maids of Honour Row.

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Maids of Honour Row - Richmond

Richmond Palace was one of the first buildings in history to be equipped with a flushing lavatory, invented by Elizabeth I’s godson, Sir John Harrington.   Richmond remained part of the County of Surrey until the mid-1960s, when it was absorbed by the expansion of London…..Greater London.
Surviving structures of Richmond Palace: The Gate House, the Wardrobe and Trumpeters’ House;

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Trumpeter's House and Lodge - Richmond Palace

these are now private residences and you are not able to tour.    However you can walk through the grounds (although I am sure they would not appreciate my encouraging you to do so! :) )…but please do bear in mind it is now private property….so don’t go knocking on the doors for a visit :)


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which way to go.....

You can reach what remains of Richmond Palace via Richmond Green (the scene of jousting tournaments in medieval times)

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Richmond Green - scene of jousting in the Middle Ages

a short walk from Richmond Station (District Line, London Overground and National Rail from Waterloo Station).  Alternatively a walk along the embankment from Richmond Bridge to Old Palace Lane and turn right.  The house on the corner is Asgill House, a fine example of an 18th century riverside Palladian villa.

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Asgill House - Richmond

John Harrington’s ‘loo’

If you have enjoyed this blog please be kind enough to leave a comment or retweet it if you think someone else would enjoy reading about Richmond Palace.  Be sure to include a trip to Richmond if you visit London for 3 Days or more.  Join me on Twitter for more about London and Facebook for photos of London. To read more about the previous palace…click here.    Thanks for visiting.

a tale of 2 #LondonTeashops

The very first thing I do every morning is make myself a cup of tea; I simply cannot start my day without my ‘cuppa’, so it makes perfect sense for me to explore the city’s tea houses. :)

The first and oldest would of course be TWININGS TEA SHOP in STRAND STREET on the border of the CITY OF LONDON and the 2nd is THE TEA HOUSE – NEAL STREET, COVENT GARDEN in the CITY OF WESTMINSTER

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The Twinings tea Shop on Strand. Note the Royal Warrant above the doorway and the date...Est. 1706!!

Both shops are a delight to visit; heavenly aromas permeate the air and you can discover all sorts of quirky tea ‘accessories’.  I discovered the ever so delightful Twinings Tea Shop on one of my frequent #walkabout jaunts through London and the first thing that caught my attention was the date above the door!!  Est 1706.  Oh my gosh!!   This is one of the many facets of London that I simply love…the age of some buildings and businesses…still going after all these years.  Some of these businesses are older than the country I come from!!   Fascinating!
So here is the tale of the Twinings Tea Shop, but first….before tea even became popular, we have to know that after Elizabeth I opened trade with Morocco and the Ottoman Empire (The Middle East had coffee houses over a hundred years before they ever appeared in England) coffee houses were popular meeting places for business transactions and remnants of these coffee houses can still be found today e.g. The Turk’s Head (now a pub: The Jamaica Wine House) – in 1652 Pasqua Rosee, the servant of a merchant trader and an immigrant from Ottoman Smyrna, opened the first coffee house in London located in the centre of the financial district of the City of London in St Michael’s Alley, amongst the myriad of alleyways around Cornhill.  Be sure to look at the step on the threshold…worn away over the aeons.

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site of the first coffee house in London circa 1652 - The Jamaica Inn once the Turks head Coffee House

Before being damaged in the Great Fire of London, the coffee house counted Samuel Pepys amongst its earlier patrons.

So at a time when coffee was king, one man, Thomas Twining, went against the tide to share his love of tea.  This passion turned a little-known drink into what is today the nation’s favourite hot beverage.

The Twinings story started back in 1706, at a time when the most popular drinks in England were coffee, gin and ale – even at breakfast!   Tea had been drunk in China for thousands of years, but only recently imported to England…lots of people were suspicious of it.
However, Thomas Twining was certain it would be big! Having had enough of drinking ale in the morning, he started selling tea from his coffee house on London’s Strand, promising only to sell the finest qualities and varieties.    His pledge soon won him (and his tea) lots of fans – including Jane Austen and Charles II.    By the 1750s, tea was the most popular drink amongst the working classes. Despite anger from pub owners and increased tea taxes, Thomas Twining kept selling tea – now from The Golden Lyon, the very first tea shop in London.

HISTORICAL MOMENTS (chosen from their website)
1787: Twinings chooses its logo. Today, it is the oldest commercial logo that has been in continuous use since it was made

1837: Queen Victoria makes Twinings an official Royal Warrant holder (be sure to look up at the lintel; it’s gorgeous)

1933: Twinings first blends its famous English Breakfast (this is my all time favourite tea)

1956: Twinings makes tea bags for the first time (who knew?)

1972: Twinings becomes the first company to win the Queen’s Award for Export
More than 300 years later, Twinings still sell tea from Thomas’s shop, with over 100 varieties their teas are drunk all over the world.  Their expert blenders taste more than 3,000 cups of tea every week.   Stephen Twining still works for his family’s company, helping to make sure Thomas’s promise is never broken.

If you happen to visit Twickenham; (and you should! Top 10 reasons to visit Twickenham) as you walk along Riverside walk from Church Lane towards the White Swan Pub, just past the church grounds look to your left and behind a high wall is ‘Dial House’ – Dial House was owned by members of the Twining family from about 1722 until 1889. The sundial on the façade carries the date 1726, possibly commemorating completion of the new building.

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Dial House in the background - if you look closely you can see the white square of the sundial

The above view is from the York House Gardens in front of the York House Statues located on the Embankment. For more info about Dial House click here & for more about Twinings Tea Shop, click here

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the #15 bus from either Trafalgar Square or St Paul’s Cathedral and travel along this historic route till you reach The Royal Courts of Justice…alight nearby and directly opposite The Royal Courts of Justice is the little shop.  Well worth a visit.   Nearest tube: Temple on the District Line.

The 2nd tea-shop that I discovered is:
THE TEA HOUSE – NEAL STREET, COVENT GARDEN, LONDON – established in 1982 it promises everything associated with tea and I have found some delightfully quirky tea items that I simply ‘had to have’ that also make wonderful stocking fillers at Christmas :)

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delightfully quirky; The Tea House in Covent Garden

The French may have their coffee traditions, but the taste for tea in Britain is associated with lazy Sunday afternoons on the lawn, the thwack of tennis balls being lobbed back & forth, cucumber sandwiches and strawberries & cream, and in offices around the country, 11am on week days signals a well earned break from work. :)

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tea for two at Sweetie Pies Boutique Bakery Twickenham,

As they say on the website, the first cup in the morning is a part of waking up, a peace offering after an argument, a restorative after an accident, and an essential accompaniment to many a conversation. I remember my Mother ‘putting the kettle on for tea’ at times of celebration as well as at times of tears….she also used to ‘read the tea leaves’.     There is even a song about tea…. “Tea for Two” is a song from the 1925 musical No, No, Nanette with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Irving Caesar.

I discovered The Tea House one day as I was looking for the Fabergé Eggs in the Covent Garden area back at Easter time.   With a somewhat Oriental appearance from the outside, with a wonderfully unusual and photogenic shop-front, this terrific little shop, albeit quite tiny is spread over 2 floors, jam-packed with everything associated with tea, once again the aroma as you step across the threshold is tantalising.
“Christina Smith who started The Tea House did so because she saw teas being marketed to tourists with Beefeater clichés and ‘Royalty flummery’.  She wanted to show tea in clean stylish surroundings, complimented with merchandise from the countries where tea is grown and her range of teas were chosen with flair and imagination long before the retail trade noticed a trend in anything but the standards.  When entering the shop people notice a ‘tea rush’ which is distinctive evidence of the fact that tea is fresh enough to deliver the best of flavour”.

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all the tea accessories you could possibly want :)

The Tea house pack the tea themselves and the shop carries the heavenly aroma of whatever tea is being packed at the time.  I can recommend a visit to this delightfully quirky tea-house and tarry awhile as you absorb the delicious aromas of teas from far-flung corners of the planet.

HOW TO GET THERE:  while visiting Covent Garden take a stroll along Neal Street towards 7 Dials and Neal’s Yard and on your left-hand side you will notice this delightful shop.
Read more here: THE TEA HOUSE

If you have enjoyed this article and have visited either of these teashops, I would love to hear from you, so please do leave a comment.  Or head over to the facebook page and post your photos.  And if you only have 3 days in London, I wish you a great stay.